The preparation for the Durga Puja has already started in Kolkata (even though almost 100 days are still left) with an occasion that all Bengali’s wait for an entire year to come. Apart from the religious significance, which still plays a major role in terms of its popularity, lies the broader context beyond normal religion. Religious stories associated with Durga Puja, the traditional beliefs and the trust towards this Goddess makes this festival a tremendous one. I personally believe that this festival will be definitely one of the most popular festival in India, if not in the world. To me, this actually signifies the resemblance towards a worship of not a Goddess but to remind mankind of the significance of a nation. It is a festival which finally champions the very cause of a nation, of a republic in action.
The various Goddesses apart from Durga represents the fundamental pillars that needs to be developed to build up a strong and independent nation. Goddess Lakshmi depicts the country’s Economy, Goddess Saraswati depicts Education and Literacy, God Kartik depicts the Youth and the Army, God Ganesh depicts the Wealth and Commerce. Leading the entire process is Goddess Durga – who depicts the ultimate concept of a Nation. The various “bahaan’s” of the different Gods and Goddesses actually complement each other – for example the peacock complements or balances the population of the rats, and so on. Hence, the “bahaan’s” actually depict the importance of an Ecological balance. So, in one point of view, Durga Puja is worshipping the very cause and fundamentals of building up a nation. This is an attempt to bring together the people within a nation and trying them to guide towards development and supremacy of the same nation.
The direct and indirect impact of this festival is huge. The first thing that strikes me is the impact of the economy. It is the time when there is a complete economic cycle – starting with the spending of excess money in terms of buying clothes and other accessories and this ending to the earnings of people who make the Gods and Goddesses in terms of idols. There are many families who actually thrive on this Puja and earn their living once in the entire year.
Then there is the impact of social togetherness. People will stop cooking food for these four days and will go out either to have the “bhog” or dine outside. This enables neighbours to catch up with each other – which normally lacks because of modern lifestyle. The younger generations tend to come close to each other and if there is a Valentine Day in the western culture, I believe the occasion of Durga Puja can definitely be termed as the second Bengali Valentine Day – to me the first Valentine Day maybe belongs to the Saraswati Puja.
The timing of the Puja is also normally at a time, when you do not have sweltering heat nor the actual winter in Kolkata. This is the best time of the year – with blue skies and occasional clouds, temperature much in the pleasant side than the normal weather experienced for the rest of the year.
Then comes the impact on literature and culture. This is the time when all the budding writers and also the established ones come out with the work of the years. Puja’s are always associated with fights within individual families on who will get the first shot at reading the Puja magazines. The cultural programmes that gets triggered in the evenings actually comes out with the budding artists of tomorrow. This is how a Kumar Sanu got recognized in the Indian musical arena.
For others like me, this occasion calls for two things – fun and relaxation from a hectic office life. So effectively, each and every Bengali pray for the entire year for these four days of celebration, worship and festivity.
Wish you a very happy Puja’s in advance to you all !
PS > I would also suggest readers to go through a fantastic article on Puja’s by Vir Sanghvi